Your baby is finally in your arms. The hustle and bustle of the birth fades away, and you lock eyes with this tiny being you’ve waited so long for. Now what? Those first hours after becoming a mum are filled with mind-blowing emotions, the steepest of learning curves – the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Welcome to the first 24 hours after birth.
The first thing that you’ll learn after becoming a mum is to expect the unexpected. No matter how prepared you think you are, this little bundle is about to take you to the school of life. But millions of women have gone before you, and here are some gems of wisdom that may just get you on the front foot, as you embark on the most amazing journey of your life.
1. Let’s get physical
While you’ve probably spent months preparing for the birth, we do tend to forget that once we’re holding our bub in our arms, our incredible bodies are working hard to do all manner of things.
Of course, you’ll be sore – in several places, depending on how you gave birth. There will be bleeding, bloating, and breast soreness. But here’s one post-birth pain you may not be expecting – cramps. Known as afterpains, these cramps kick in not long after birth as your uterus contracts back to its former size. After your first birth, these are typically mild – but you may feel them more strongly while breastfeeding. These cramps do increase in intensity after each subsequent birth – so be prepared!
You breasts will be tender as your milk comes in, and of course if you’ve had a vaginal birth, it can be very uncomfortable to sit – so keep some comfy cushions handy.
2. I’m the queen of the world!
Immediately after birth, even after hours and hours of intensive labour, you’ll probably feel like you can take on the world. That’s because having a baby is a huge adrenaline rush – the most incredible natural high! Just seconds before, as you reached the crescendo of giving birth, you may have felt completely exhausted, unable to go on – you probably vocalised such thoughts (‘please, just let me go home!’). But when you have your baby in your arms, you suddenly become invincible.
The distraction of this stunning creature in your arms is enough to push any thoughts of pain and weakness aside, as you’re re-energized. Enjoy this – because it won’t last!
3. What a mess
Be prepared that after giving birth, your birthing suite may resemble a B-grade horror movie. But you’ll be so enthralled with your new baby you may not even notice, as sheets are stripped and floors are mopped.
Then it will be your turn. Your midwife will likely try and get you up for a shower at some stage – and regardless of how much you just want to stay in the bed, it will be one of the best showers you’ve ever had.
4. The queen takes her throne
It’s understandable that after giving birth, your first trip to the toilet may be met with trepidation. Make sure you speak to your midwife or obstetrician who can help prepare you and your body, particularly if you’ve had stitches following delivery.
5. An emotional roller-coaster
The act of birth does some amazing and strange things to our bodies, physically and emotionally. Be prepared to go through a vast range of emotions during the first 24 hours. Your body is recovering from a huge physical strain, and your mind is adjusting to motherhood. The combination will have you on a high one minute, and in tears the next.
Make sure you speak to your medical caregivers about how you’re feeling, and they’ll let you know what’s in the realm of normal, and when you may need some additional help. Remember – it takes a village to raise a child, so there’s absolutely no indignity in asking for help.
6. You’re getting sleepy…
After having an initial feed, your baby may nod off not long after birth, and may not wake again for quite a few hours as he recovers from birth (it’s hard on babies too!). Your adrenaline will most likely keep you on a high for a long time after the birth. But it’s best to try and get some rest, as when your baby does wake from his first slumber, he may be unsettled for some time.
As much as you’ll want to show your beautiful babe off to your family and friends, try and take the opportunity during that precious first 24 hours to rest and recover.
7. Where’s the food?
During the birth, you may not have felt like eating much for several hours. As you recover after the birth, your appetite will return with a vengeance!
Make sure you have some nutritious meals, and plenty of water, to help your body recover and prepare for the rigours of taking care of your new baby.
8. Welcome one and all!
The birth of a baby is a momentous occasion in any family – so you need to be prepared that everyone from your distant Aunt Sally to your best friend’s neighbour’s cousin will want to meet your new addition. It may sound far-fetched, but you may be surprised by how many people will visit either your hospital room or home in the first day of your baby’s life.
It can help to establish some ground rules early on so you aren’t swamped by visitors when you don’t have the energy for them. Perhaps organise for people to check in with your partner to clear their visit before arriving – and if you feel you will need it, organise a signal you can give your partner that means ‘It’s time for everyone to leave!’.
9. Nappy talk
You’ll be fascinated by the contents of your baby’s first couple of nappies. Almost obsessed. Keeping an eye on how many wet nappies your baby produces will help you feel reassured that your baby is feeding properly. The first nappies will be filled with a sticky, almost black mess. And you’ll become adept at weighing a nappy in the palm of your hand, in a bid to determine how wet it is. You’ll become a nappy expert!
10. On top of the world
It’s obvious that the first 24 hours of your baby’s life will be action-packed. But nestled between the nappy changes, sleep struggles, pain and tears, will be moments of sheer joy. You’ll be left breathless at the love you feel for your baby. It’s like nothing else. Soak it in, and hold it close. Those first 24 hours are fleeting, but so important. Enjoy every minute.